Can Tour de France stars contend for medals at 2016 Olympics?
It’s a conundrum every four years. Can the world’s top road cyclists endure the grueling, three-week Tour de France and come back not only to compete, but also contend for medals in the Olympics in the same summer?
Great Britain’s Chris Froome did just that three years ago.
He finished second to countryman Bradley Wiggins at the Tour and, six days after the ceremonial ride into Paris, joined Wiggins for the London Olympic road race.
Froome finished 109th in a failed team bid to have Mark Cavendish win Great Britain’s first home gold of the Games) but took bronze in the time trial four days later, behind gold medalist Wiggins.
Of course, Wiggins, Froome and Cavendish were all keen on the Tour-Olympic double because of the opportunity to compete in a home Olympics.
Since professional cyclists competed in the Olympics for the first time in 1996, the single reigning Tour de France winner not to compete in the Olympics was Lance Armstrong in 2004. During that Tour, Armstrong said he declined an invitation to compete in the Athens Olympics, where the time trial was three weeks after the Tour de France finish, to spend time with his children.
Will Froome ride the Tour and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016? The 2016 Tour will end July 24, and the Olympic Opening Ceremony is Aug. 5, adding a week more in between than in 2012.
There haven’t been many reports of Froome commenting on the Rio Games.
“One-day racing is always a bit of a lottery,” Froome said in 2014, according to Sky Sports. “I’m yet to get a big result in a one-day race, but if the right course came around and it was a really hilly circuit, it is something I could attack and go for. I’m quietly hoping that the Rio  course would be a bit like that.”
The Rio Olympic road race and time trial courses, unveiled in December, do include climbs.
“Rio could very well develop into a really serious goal for me,” Froome said in 2013, according to Sky Sports. “It’s certainly something which would be a driving force in the back of my mind over the next few months.”
Nairo Quintana, Tour runner-up to Froome for the second time in three years, was not on the Colombian Olympic team as a 22-year-old in 2012, before his Grand Tour debut.
The 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali placed fourth this year. The 30-year-old Italian competed in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics with a top finish of 14th in the Beijing time trial.
“I’ve had a look and it seems to be a tough course, difficult and suitable to my characteristics,” Nibali said in December, according to Italian comments in Gazzetta dello Sport translated by Cyclingnews.com. “We will see, there is still a year and a half, but I’d like to be a leader.”
Spain’s Alberto Contador finished fifth in the Tour de France, failing in a bid to hold all three Grand Tour titles at once. He finished fourth in the 2008 Olympic time trial and missed the 2012 Olympics due to a doping ban.
“For next year I plan my season similar to that of 2014 -- to enjoy the start of the season in top shape and to do the Tour and then the Olympics,” he said, according to a Cyclingnews.com article published Saturday. “I think that next year’s Olympics is hard and as such can adapt to my style, which doesn’t happen often.”
Wiggins, 35, has turned his focus back to track cycling, where he won the first six of his seven Olympic medals over four Games. If Wiggins makes it to Rio and wins one medal, he will become the most decorated British Olympian ever.
Cavendish, a sprinter with 26 Tour de France stage wins, cast doubt in January that he can compete at the Rio Olympics.
“I want to do the Olympics, but it’s hard,” the 30-year-old said, according to the BBC. “I can’t do it on the road, can’t do it in the time trial, and on the track there’s just no way to qualify without quitting the road.”